October 16, 2021

“Last time we were here, we called the entire population of Cardiff sheep shaggers!”

Man Made Live at the Moon Club, Cardiff.

 

Yep, this is how they opened. What a way to introduce yourselves to a city ey? In fairness, I’m blowing it up a little disproportionately. Let’s hear the story as Nile (guitar and vocals) tells it:

“Okay, so we’re not used to playing big stages. Last time we played Cardiff, we opened for Jake Bugg at the Motorpoint. Now usually we’re used to interacting with the audience, like here, I don’t even need to use my microphone. So I ask what the people of Cardiff are called, in Manchester you have Mancs, London geezers, all that. I was genuinely curious, and this girl just shouts back – ‘Sheep Shaggers!’ All I did was repeat it, but I forgot that most of the crowd can’t hear her, and I have this microphone hooked up to the speakers all over the place in front of me. I don’t think we’ll be being booked there again in a hurry”.

Nile’s probably right in more ways than he realises there. Tonight they’ve drawn a crowd of about 30, maybe a touch over. A fair, and the drunkest by far, contingent of these are the two support bands, a couple of young local bands who are convinced that they’ve made it, and are one step away from a UK tour, but in reality have been brought in by promoters in the hope that they’ll drag a few extra quid through the door. In all honesty this isn’t a bad number for a Tuesday evening here, but it’s a long way from the 7,500 capacity of the Motorpoint arena.

And it’s for the best by far. In this intimate space, Nile is capable of being his charming self. He talks to the crowd as one of their own, entertaining with stories, cracking jokes, and generally seeming like an all-round nice guy. The music, too, is better suited to this smaller venue. While the generally muddy sound of the venue doesn’t help the band, there are moments when they bring to mind the late 90’s north-east American scene of bands like Modest Mouse (at their semi-exuberant midpoint) and Built to Spill. Playing a Fender Jaguar, Nile shows himself to be an accomplished guitarist through jangling and semi-aggressive riffs,  though they never really strike chord with the crowd. It can’t be easy playing a gig to a lead-booted crowd, who seem only able to move one foot from the floor roughly in time with the rhythm, but we can’t liberate the band from all responsibility. For the most part, the music was tight. There were catchy riffs, and some genuinely exciting jams when the band came closest to capturing what felt like an original moment in their music, but there were also flat periods – songs that probably should never have made it past the practice space, or perhaps simply work better on record. Not a band to be written off, by any means, but it seems fair to say that some work remains if they’re going to find a dedicated following to rock out with.